Happy Earth Overshoot Day
“August 20 is Earth Overshoot Day 2013, marking the date when humanity exhausted nature’s budget for the year. We are now operating in overdraft.”
Today is a holiday that brings no call for celebration. Today is the day we receive notice from the Bank of Earth that we have overdrawn our account. The really bad news is that we have no savings account or other overdraft protection because, of course, there is only one Earth. The even worse news is that we have been overdrawing our Earth account every year since the mid 1970s—and our spending habits are getting worse, not better. If we keep doing this, one day the bank will have no choice but to close our account—permanently.
According to Global Footprint Network’s calculations, “our demand for renewable ecological resources and the services they provide is now equivalent to that of more than 1.5 Earths. The data shows us on track to require the resources of two planets well before mid-century.”
How can one “overdraw” the Earth? By forgetting that all the stuff we purchase, use, and throw away every day, all the miles we drive, and all the electricity we use to power our gadgets and lives are line items in the Earth’s balance sheet. The Earth’s natural capital is the real stuff that upon which our increasingly imaginary economies are built like towers of cards. Or as Earth Day Founder Sen. Gaylord Nelson so eloquently put it, “The economy is a wholly owned subsidiary of the environment, not the other way around.” Earth Overshoot Day is analogous to when excessive spending begins depleting a capital account, exceeding the account’s interest income.
This isn’t rocket science – it’s household budgeting. (Oikos, the Greek root from which we derive both economics and ecology, means “household.”) Want to bring your Earth budget back into the black? We just spent quite a bit of time talking about practical ways to do that in Ecotech Institute’s first Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) “Intro to Sustainability.” Even though the course is over, the videos and readings are still publicly available on the Canvas network. Check them out at your leisure—but don’t wait too long. We’re not exactly sure how long the Bank of Earth is going to let us slide.
“Today, there are three kinds of people: the haves, the have-nots, and the have-not-paid-for-what-they-haves.”
Kyle Crider is Program Chair at Ecotech Institute and Education Corporation of America. He holds a Master of Public Administration degree with a double-emphasis in Urban Planning & Policy Analysis. He is also a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Accredited Professional, Neighborhood Development (LEED AP ND). He is currently in the Interdisciplinary Engineering Ph.D. Program at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and not necessarily those of Ecotech Institute or Education Corporation of America. Email Kyle at firstname.lastname@example.org